Derrick Rose’s injury was the best thing that could have happened to the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls are playing superbly while Rose continues to rehab his surgically repaired knee, and have become more resilient as a result.
Without Rose, the Bulls have had to play a different brand of basketball. They've become more of a half-court team, and judging from their success this season, it was a correct switch to make.
The offense is just one decision that has panned out for the Bulls. There are a few additional choices that have aided to their vigor.
The Changes Made to the Roster
It is easy to assume that the Bulls' overall team record of 24-16 would be better with Rose. They would have a full complement of players on their roster, and the beloved “Bench Mob” would have remained mostly intact.
It is not inconceivable that either Nate Robinson or Marco Belinelli is playing elsewhere if Rose were healthy all season. Both players add an incomparable skill set than the two guys they replaced, C.J. Watson and Kyle Korver.
Robinson and Belinelli can get their own shot.
The knock on Watson is that he was more of an undersized 2-guard. His ball handling left plenty to be desired and he was also an average passer at best.
Korver is a great shooter. If you allowed him to spot-up and shoot the basketball, nine times out of 10, he drains the shot. If you force him to take you off the dribble, you reverse the results.
Both Watson and Korver served a great purpose for two seasons and now their replacements are creating an impact of their own.
The fact that Robinson and Belinelli can make shots is a godsend for a team that had no idea where their offense was going to come from. They combine for over 20 points a game, giving the Bulls much-needed scoring, while many fans and observers (me included) are still in disbelief.
Nate Robinson has won basketball games for the Bulls, and so has Marco Belinelli. I am convinced that C.J. Watson and Kyle Korver would not have done the same thing if they were in Chicago uniforms.
Jimmy Butler and Taj’ Gibson are the Bulls’ unsung heroes
Jimmy Butler has developed into a solid NBA player. Despite playing in a reserve role, Butler’s defense on perimeter players is outstanding. With his heady play on the defensive and crashing the boards, one would never know that he was a second-year player whom barely played in his rookie season. Butler has become that good.
Butler is not alone. Taj’ Gibson has bounced back from his early struggles to become the team’s best defender. His ability to block and alter shots has changed the complexity of many Bulls’ games. He has taken on the identity of the team, as he rarely quits on a play.
When both Gibson and Butler are on the floor at the same time, they turn into a potent, one-two punch on the defensive end. They both have also stepped up their efforts on offense.
Butler and Gibson are less reluctant to shoot now, and they look to make an impact when the Bulls need a spark.
Carlos Boozer is reborn
Anyone who follows the NBA will tell you that if the Bulls wanted to have a prosperous year, the real Carlos Boozer would have to show up. After spending the past two seasons posted on a milk carton, Boozer has returned.
The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week is averaging 16.1 points and 10 rebounds a game.
While his statistics are similar to the numbers in his first two years with the Bulls, his defense is improved.
During an interview on TNT that aired while the Bulls where playing the Los Angeles Lakers, Boozer talked about what it was like to be playing without Rose. It was a perfect explanation to the Bulls’ resiliency. Here is what he told the TNT reporters…
What we learned is that we need everybody to win, especially without D. Rose. You know, we’re used to looking for D. Rose when the shot clock is going five, four, three, two, one, and him making a great play happen. Um, now we have to set screens, pass, cut, do different things to get a good shot off, but we’re capable. And that’s what we also learned that we, when we’re right, we’re doing things the right way, and as hard as we can, we can still win.
Although it took two seasons for him to figure it out, Boozer is showing the recognition of a team leader. This would not have happened if Rose were healthy.
Everyone else has done their share
Boozer, along with Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Richard Hamilton, has done everything possible to make sure that the Bulls do not give up on this season.
Deng has played a bigger role on offense while playing great defense as usual, and Noah is having the best season of his NBA career, averaging 12.2 PPG, 10.7 RPG and 2.1 BLK.
In the meantime, Hamilton is regaining his form after recovering from a torn plantar fascia.
The Bulls players are a resilient group. After playing the role of spectators when Derrick Rose was healthy, everyone had to do more after he tore his ACL. Their play has placed the Bulls into the NBA title discussion, something that never was a topic prior to the beginning of the season.
Where the Bulls are as a team is a testimony of how hard work and preparation can lead to success. The Bulls have a “never give up” attitude, and it is all due to an unfortunate injury to Derrick Rose.